This week in theater: 'Les Miserables' hits Mpls., Fringe Festival begins

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The touring production of the blockbuster Broadway musical "Les Miserables" stops in Twin Cities this week for a six-day, eight show run at the Orpheum Theatre in Minneapolis.

The production begins Tuesday night and runs through the weekend, with two shows on both Saturday and Sunday.

An epic and uplifting story about the survival of the human spirit based on Victor Hugo's classic novel, "Les Miserables" was also, of course, adapted for the big-screen, earning an Oscar nomination for star Hugh Jackman (Jean Valjean) and Oscar win for Anne Hathaway (Fantine).

Vancouver Sun theater critic Erika Thorkelson says those who found the film version a "a bit slow" will find a remedy with the touring production in her review of the show in June.

"Though the runtime still clocks in at three hours with an intermission, the show zips through the text sometimes faster than the singers can keep up," Thorkelson writes. "After the intimacy of that film’s intense close-ups, it feels refreshing to step back and experience the songs in their original vastness."

Critic Sharon Eberson also gave the touring production high marks in a January review in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Noting the changes the musical has undergone since celebrating its 25th anniversary in 2010 -- most notably the absence of the turntable stage -- Eberson writes, "The new 'Les Miserables' musical hasn't changed where it matters most. Strong vocals ride the wave of rousing Claude-Michel Schonberg music that seeps into your memory and won't let go."

Also starting this week is the Minnesota Fringe Festival, which begins Thursday at and runs through Aug. 11.

The annual theater festival -- which celebrates its 20th anniversary this year -- will showcase 176 plays in 16 different venues in the Twin Cities, including, yes, one on outgoing Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak.

“RT+MPLS: The Legend of Mayor R.T. Rybak” will tell the story of the married mayor's affair with the "other woman" in his life -- the city of Minneapolis.

Ending its run at the Guthrie Theater Sunday is Pulitzer Prize-winning play "Clybourne Park" at the venue's McGuire Proscenium Stage in Minneapolis.

The play, which earned playwright Bruce Norris and Tony Award for Best Play in 2012 in addition to his Pulitzer, is a satirical comedy that deals with race and class in response to Lorraine Hansberry's classic "A Raisin in the Sun."

Pioneer Press theater critic Chris Hewitt compares "Clybourne Park" to an orchestral performance, writing that it's "a work of art where the 'conductor,' director Lisa Peterson, and the players are so united in their effects that we hardly notice the dozens of talents that contributed to the production."

Also continuing this week at the Guthrie Theater is "Pride and Prejudice," which is being performed in celebration of the 200th anniversary of the Jane Austen classic.

The play stars Apple Valley native Vincent Kartheiser of "Mad Men" fame as Mr. Darcy, while Ashley Rose Montondo -- a 2011 graduate of the University of Minnesota/Guthrie Theater Actor Training Program -- also stars as Elizabeth Bennet in her debut role on the world stage.

Theater critic Graydon Royce of the Star Tribune praised artistic director Joe Dowling's production, calling it "briskly paced" and "energetic," and is mostly convinced by Kartheiser's performance.

Pioneer Press contributing theater critic Dominic P. Papatola is a bit mixed in his review, calling the production "a lovely-but-shallow staging with no perspective, no stakes and little resonance."

"Pride and Prejudice" runs through Aug. 31.

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